With training at l’École du Grand Chocolat in France, experience at Parisian patisseries and time spent working beside well-known masters like Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Thomas Keller, Lauren Gockley brings a perspective and pedigree to her work in cannabis that few others have.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be able to go and work with amazing professionals in an environment that really celebrated creativity, celebrated process and a level of execution that is constantly striving for perfection,” says Gockley, the co-founder, head chef and vice president of innovation at Coda Signature.
She says her classic French training taught her the importance of rigor and dedication to craftsmanship that she brings to her role making cannabis-infused treats and topicals.
“We take it very serious,” she says. “The French confection and culinary people are passionate and dedicated, and we’re applying that same level of passion and rigor to how we enter every single day.”
At Coda, Gockley is responsible for the formulation and design of the company’s edibles, which have won numerous magazine and industry awards in multiple categories since their first month on the market, picking up a High Times Cannabis Cup award for best new edibles within three weeks of their launch in Colorado in 2016. Gockley says the early recognition was not only a sign that Coda was on the right track, but immediately established a benchmark for everything else the company released.
“The vision was really clear: we wanted to set the standard of excellence for infused products,” she says.
Gockley says that while her French training is a major part of the success of her products, including the company’s signature hand-painted truffles, the four years she spent working as a raw, vegan chocolatier was where she learned the secrets to crafting great flavors.
“That’s where I honed my ability to identify a flavor and then break it apart and put it back together,” she says, noting that Coda’s award-winning “Coffee and Doughnuts” chocolate bar doesn’t actually include doughnuts themselves, but the ingredients that create the taste. “I loved becoming this detective of flavor.”
Gockley’s experience also led to the creation of Coda’s Fruit Notes line, which are designed to compete with gummies. Launched two years ago, Gockley says the idea was to “elevate” the gummy experience, so she drew from her training as a chocolatier to create a cannabis product based on a classic confection.
“So many classic French chocolatiers have something called pâte de fruit as part of their repertoire. That’s a traditional French confection you’ll often find in chocolate shops, pasty shops,” she says. “It’s a real-fruit-based confection that really exemplifies everything we hope to do as a brand.”
Gockley says she loves the opportunities that the cannabis industry has for chefs to help set the standards for quality, safety and excellence in an emerging industry. But she also jokes that it has been a “gateway drug” to help her express her passion and talents in the kitchen.
“Craftsmanship is so much of what we’re doing in this industry, from those who make edibles to those who are cultivating,” she says. “We’re not really artists, we’re craftsmen.”